Before you choose a muskmelon variety, check the number of days to maturity for different varieties. From your local county extension service you can find out how long the growing season is in your area and when the average first and last frost dates occur. Pick a variety that will mature well before the first frost date.
If your garden space is limited, consider growing a bush variety rather than a vining variety.
Starting the seeds indoors can extend your growing season. Sow them indoors 25 days before your area's last average frost date. Follow the instructions on the seed packet for sowing indoors or outside.
Grow your muskmelons in a sunny spot where they will get at least six hours of sunlight a day.
Plant your muskmelons in well-drained soil. To check the soil for its ability to drain, dig a hole one foot deep and one foot wide in your chosen spot and fill it with water. If all the water drains out in 30 minutes or less, the drainage is adequate. If water is still standing in the hole after 3 or 4 hours, soil amendment is called for. Dig up the melon bed and mix in compost, well-rotted manure or peat moss to improve drainage.
If you plan to use black plastic mulch between the rows of melons, mix in 1 pound of nitrogen, 2 pounds of phosphorus (P2O5), and 3 pounds of potash (K2O) for every 1,000 square feet. If you're not using black plastic, change the nitrogen to 1¼ pounds.
Plant melons in hills 5 feed apart, center to center, placing two seeds or plants in each hill. Allow 5 feet of space between the rows of melons.
If you're planting seeds directly outdoors, poke them about an inch down into the soil and cover them lightly. If you're planting seedlings, tuck them into the soil just above their roots and lightly tamp the dirt in around them.
Water the seeds or seedlings until the soil is moist but not saturated.
If you use black plastic mulch, lay the sheets down between the hills about 1 foot away from the hill edges. This will leave you plenty of space to water the plants while helping to keep the weeds under control and hold moisture in the soil.
Check your melon plants daily for moisture and water them often enough to keep the soil consistently damp---neither dried out nor soaking wet. To test for moisture, stick your finger into the soil close to the roots. If it doesn't feel damp to the touch, it's time to water.
Melons are ready for harvest when the skin has turned from green to yellow or tan (color will vary by variety) and when the stem of the melon comes easily off the vine. You may also see a crack along the edges of the spot where the melon attaches to the vine. Melons will not get any sweeter if you pick them before they are ripe, but they will continue to soften.
Once the melons start to ripen, check the melon patch every other day and pick the ones that are ripe. As more begin to ripen, check the patch daily for ripe fruit.